A weight loss journey can often be a lonely road to travel so when Randalstown woman Sonya McAllister started to lose weight she found that the support from family, friends and those who were also trying to lose weight was invaluable,
As she began sharing her experiences on social media she found that more and more people were asking her for advice, weight loss tips and support.
So one day in 2013 Sonya decided to start her own little support group in Randalstown - We Slim Together was born and has now grown to support thousands of people over the years with groups all over Northern Ireland.
Sonya developed We Slim Together, a healthy eating support system, with the aim of teaching people how to eat in a healthy way, while dropping from a dress size 26 to a 14, shedding over seven stone, and learning how to adapt her favourite foods to her new way of life.
“I was always a big girl but being six foot tall I was told I carried it well,” explained Sonya. “I was always known as ‘Big Sonya’ and that was a real downer.
“When I was young I was a 14-16 but I looked like an adult rather than a teenager. It really dented my self esteem.
“I had a child when I was 16 and that affected my weight as being a single parent took all my focus.
“My real weight gain happened when I was about 24 and it became really troubling.
“I suffered really badly with post natal depression and when the children went to bed I would feel really sorry for myself and start eating rubbish.
“When I met my husband he was very supportive and reassuring. He loved me the way I was.
“It wasn’t until my third child that the weight started climbing and climbing. We got married in 2008 and I was about a size 26. I didn’t weigh myself but I had ordered my dress from America and when it came it was three sizes too big so I just ate myself into it. I felt good on my wedding day but looking at pictures afterwards was like really look at myself for the first time. I knew I needed to do something,
“My father was dying at the time and that was just another excuse to keep eating. Eight weeks after he died I knew I needed to change my life.”
Sonya went to another healthy eating group and her weight started to fall. “I needed the goal of standing on a set of scales every week,” she continued. “The weight started to drop off and I became more determined.”
After her initial weight loss, Sonya wanted to educate herself on healthy eating and she began doing her own research online and shared her own journey on social media.
Soon people were stopping her in the street to ask for help and advice so she decided to use a room in a local hotel and ask if anyone wanted to come along for a cuppa and a chat. At the first meeting, much to Sonya’s surprise, 65 people turned up. And the following week 95 people came along,
Since then, We Slim Together has grown and grown, with classes all over Northern Ireland.
Sonya gave up her job in the NHS and decided to devote herself full time to We Slim Together.
“My husband saw that I was thriving and really loving the group. I was getting such a buzz from seeing the results that people were getting.”
Now in their fourth year We Slim Together groups, online membership and support system, now services in excess of 3,000 people who struggle to lose weight.
We Slim Together isn’t a slimming group, and you won’t hear them talking about diets. It isn’t a ‘diet’, to them ‘diet’ can be a scary word. They are not here to starve members; but teach members how to eat in a healthy way while still feeling satisfied and treating food as something you don’t have to feel guilty about.
Sonya, who used to be a nurse, recognises that weight loss is not just about food. Her members benefit not only from her healthy eating plan but her service offers 24 hour teaching and support to embrace a healthy lifestyle including: eating well, moving more, sleep, dealing with stress and even those who suffer with chronic illness.
“Everyone’s weight loss journey is different, we have different reasons to start,” she said. “Ultimately it is about finding the right path to lose weight and maintain a good healthy weight for each individual. The first place to start is always establishing the right relationship with food.”
Sonya, a busy mum of three, is now responsible for developing We Slim Together, while supporting consultants and members. Her aim has always been to help others. “I worked in Holywell Hospital and knew I would have to give up my job, which was scary, but I felt it was my calling,” said Sonya.
“My own journey has taught me so much, from my initial decision to lose weight and developing my healthy eating plan, to a thriving business where I support and mentor thousands of people every week.
“My life has changed and my choices can sometimes come secondary to my members’, which effects my own weight loss.
“I am certainly not perfect and I don’t have a perfect body. I will never be a skinny minny. I am still on a journey as well.”
We Slim Together’s success continues, with new groups opening throughout Northern Ireland, while online members from across the world gain also direct access to support and assistance.
We Slim Together have groups in Belfast, Dundonald, Magherafelt, Randalstown, Portadown, Newtownards, Lisburn, Larne, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Ballymoney, Bangor, Antrim and Glengormley.
Find out more about We Slim Together online at www.weslimtogether.co.uk.